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Cosmos 2.0

We received this email the other day from Dustin, a listener in Kentucky:

“I’m both excited and nervous about the upcoming new Cosmos miniseries. I was wondering if you and the rogues had any thoughts on this news. Any concerns, expectations…? What kinds of issues and themes do you hope to see covered in the new Cosmos miniseries? The original Cosmos was about more than just space. It was about science as a candle in the dark. My hope is that this isn’t forgotten as the new one is produced.”

Dustin, in my opinion you have every right to be excited and very little reason to be nervous.

“Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey,” a 13-part series is expected to be broadcast in 2013 on Fox. What’s more, Ann Druyan (producer and co-writer from the original Cosmos) and Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) are collaborating as the executive producers. 

For those of us whom have the original Cosmos series coursing through our bloodstreams, we are all familiar with Ann’s contributions to the Cosmos series and her pivotal role in its continuing legacy. For those of us whom have laughed out loud at Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show and the dozen-or-so other projects which have MacFarlane’s talented fingerprints all over them, we are familiar with Seth’s philosophical state of mind as an outspoken skeptic and atheist. That he is such a great admirer of the original Cosmos series is not at all surprising – it actually further pegs Seth as “one of us”, something I have come to realize as his star has risen.  

Anchoring the project, playing the role of storyteller as our own generation’s voice of the cosmos, will be none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson. This project has WIN written all over it.

But to more specifically answer your questions, Dustin, I’ll take them in reverse order.

If Seth’s words are true as being reported in the article, he will allow the science, and the precious nature of the pursuit of science, to light the way. I would bet that Ann would not allow this project to sway outside of those very delicate boundaries. As far as Seth’s influence over this aspect of the project, it seems to me that he will do a lot of deferring to Ann, Neil, and the other science professionals involved. It sounds like he knows his primary role will be as the main liasson with the big execs at Fox. Lets face it, whatever Mr. MacFarlane wants, Mr. MacFarlane is bound to get. If you think about it, this is probably an ideal collaboration which will result in big rating numbers for Fox, while some of the best science storytelling will be filling the minds of tens of millions of people tuning in to see MacFarlane’s latest blockbuster efforts.

The issues and themes I would expect from this series would be something of a compilation borrowing ideas and subjects from some of the best, modern science themes we have been enjoying for years via The Science Channel, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Channel. Just think about how much more we have learned since the original airing of Cosmos.  The potential is limitless.  

Perhaps my only “concern” has to do with something which was critical to the success of the original series. To me, part of the magic of Cosmos was the historical context of scientific discoveries and losses.  It drives home the point that science itself is fragile. We take for granted the advancements of our modern day. We forget about the long, arduous road science has had to travel.  Yet we are just a single, perfectly placed electro-magnetic pulse away from being plunged into the mid 19th century.  We are a few sets of bad political decisions away from forcing ourselves into a golden age of cheaper alternative medicines and therapies, where science based medicine becomes a commodity only affordable by the ultra-wealthy and politically connected classes.  And we are a few economic decisions away from losing our collective grip in keeping peace and order in lawful societies.  History has shown that even the mightiest and most enlightened societies can fall and crumble.  As societies go, so goes the fate of science. Sagan had a love for history and the historical context of science, so the love of history needs to be on display again in any successful resurrection of the Cosmos series.

Take heart that this is going to be a very successful project. MacFarlane continues to positions himself more squarely into the “good guys” camp when it comes to helping spread the practice of skepticism to the masses with the rebirth of Cosmos.  He is using his unparalleled clout and influence to help seed the minds of tens of millions (arguably hundreds of millions) of people whom follow his every move.

3 comments to Cosmos 2.0

  • […] The Rogues’ Gallery: “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey,” a 13-part series is expected to be broadcast in 2013 on Fox. […]

  • Bear

    I completely agree with your statements about the historical context of Cosmos, Evan. One of the things that I made sure to drive home to my children when we have watched Cosmos, is that when I was a child, the United States was embroiled in the Cold War. Carl Sagan made certain that understanding our status on this pale, blue dot was a large part of Cosmos. It reveled in and celebrated our accomplishments while marking the edge of the precipice on which we balanced. We could lose this all so easily; nothing of what we’ve done is assured to continue.

    That threat still exists. If we take our future as a species, as a people to be destiny, then we risk losing all of it to our hubris. The danger of nuclear war is still great. There are more countries with the tools to destroy our world than when Cosmos first aired. Yet simultaneously, we have much, much more to celebrate since even Ann and Carl’s updates on the science of Cosmos were released on DVD.

    It is my sincere hope that Mr. MacFarlane understands this, and more importantly, can articulate it to FOX and make them see the import of holding true to the dual aspects of Cosmos, as both cautionary tale and celebrant of our shared history of exploration.

  • DLC

    whoah. . . Neil DeGrasse Tyson, hosting Cosmos, as visualized by Seth McFarlane ? this could be weird and new… or a disaster waiting to happen.
    I’ll hope for the former.

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